Fixing Apple TV lost network connections

Ted Landau
30 April, 2013
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Occasionally, my 1080p Apple TV (ATV) loses interest in connecting to my local network. More specifically, if I go to the Network setting, I find no IP address listed. That’s right. The IP address listing is empty. There isn’t even an invalid self-assigned (169.x.x.x) address. Not surprisingly, when this vanishing act occurs, the ATV can no longer access my iTunes Library or any of the ATV’s internet-based services.

The Apple TV is hooked up to my network via a wired (Ethernet) connection. I had thought this would make for a more reliable connection. Apparently, not in this case.

Some quick diagnostic checks determined that the source of the problem was almost certainly the ATV itself. All the other networked devices – whether connected by Wi-Fi or Ethernet – were functioning as expected. My AirPort Base Station and internet modem both showed all-systems-go. Even my second ATV, connected to another television, was working just fine.

Even the now troublesome Apple TV had been working for over a year without incident. The network loss popped up only in the last month or two. This made me wonder if the cause might be a bug in a recent ATV firmware update.

In any case, my first attempt to get the ATV back on the network was to restart the device. There are at least three ways to do this (as covered in an Apple support article). I had success with the first method: selecting Settings > General > Restart. Presumably, the others would have worked as well.


Choosing Restart may be all you need to get an offline Apple TV back online

Unfortunately, a restart was not a permanent fix. The network loss continued to re-occur about once every two weeks. As long as restarting restored the connection, I wasn’t too concerned. Still, I continued to seek a solution that would squash the bug entirely.

In one Apple Support Communities thread, numerous users have reported a similar Ethernet-based network loss. As in my case, restarting the ATV typically restored the connection. A permanent fix was more elusive. Various settings changes were recommended, but none seemed to be a consensus solution. One posting suggested adding Google’s Public DNS Server ( to the network settings. But this assumes you already have a functioning IP address. I didn’t.

Another thread described similar symptoms, except that they were with Wi-Fi connections. In one more thread, users reported a network failure limited to Home Sharing rather than the entire connection.

In at least some cases, the Wi-Fi failures may be due to a faulty ATV. As reported in a recent Macworld article, “a small subset” of third-generation Apple TVs qualify for a free replacement by Apple. To qualify, your device must have a serial number matching the criteria cited in the article.

I checked my Apple TV. My serial number was almost a match. It ended in the required DRHN. But it did not have one of the required third and fourth character pairs (instead, the matching pair was with the fifth and sixth characters). I assume that means close, but no cigar. Then again, my problem was with an Ethernet connection, not Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, several questions remain unanswered. Do the Wi-Fi and Ethernet symptoms have the same underlying cause? For cases that do not qualify for a unit replacement, did a firmware update trigger the problem? If not, what is the sure-fire permanent solution? Hopefully, the answers will emerge sometime soon.


By Ted Landau, Macworld


6 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Paul says:

    I had this problem with mine. To fix the problem I just stopped the Apple TV from going to sleep. I have mine set to never to go to sleep and I haven’t had the problem back. I think it has to do with the way the Apple TV goes to sleep.

  2. Vlad says:

    I had this exact issue with Apple TV late last year. I purchased my unit from Dick Smith and in the first month it worked fine. It was happily connected via WiFi to my Airport Express and streaming of movies via iTunes was great.

    About a month after purchase the WiFi connection dropouts started. At first it was once a week before it became several times in a movie, until one day i had no connection at all. Resetting the Apple TV made no difference and even wired (Ethernet) connection didn’t fix the problem.

    Going through the Apple and other forums i have found this was a common issue with Apple TV 3 and the only fix was to replace the unit, though some users reported same issues even with replacement units. I went back to Dick Smith and had the unit returned to Apple and new unit sent to me within a week.

    It has been working fine now for 4 months without any issues. One of the other suggestions was not to allow Apple updates for the unit, which also seems to help.

  3. Ian says:

    Hoorah! I’m not the only one. Nor do I have an answer – I keep restarting my ATV in the vain hope of regaining the glory days of a continuing ethernet network connection. Apple – what happened here?

  4. Graham says:

    I have had this problem. I resolve it by turning off the home sharing on Itunes, then turning it back on. Don’t know what the problem is, but it is very annoying.

  5. Rick says:

    I too have had this problem. I have solved it by giving the Apple TV a specific IP address. End of problem.

  6. Josh says:

    I read about this issue a week or two ago, because my ATV had been having the same issues – it had happened a couple of times before the 5.2.1 update, but AFTER the update, happened quite regularly, a the only fix was to restart the device.

    When I read that it was an issue with third-gen Apple TV’s, I checked my serial number and it was part of the group eligible for the free swap-out through Apple.

    However, on all the forums that I’d been reading, this was only current in America at the time.

    I went to our local Apple store here (which had only opened last week) and asked one of their ‘geniuses’ (and I use the term loosely) about the issue and whether or not they would be honoring this exchange program as well. The first person I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about, and then went off to ask about. 5mins later came back “yep, I’ve just been told about it, and all you need to do is bring it in and we’ll swap it over”


    You just need to make an appointment to do so.


    SO I made my appointment for the following Thursday morning. 9am.

    I turn up for my appointment. And was the 3rd person in the store, amongst about 15 Apple Smurfs told a couple of people I had a 9am Genius Bar appointment…. And that was it.

    30mins later… I’m still waiting for my appointment.

    9:45am I finally get sat down “sorry, I didn’t realise you were here”. Great start, Apple. So we sit down and I explain to this ‘Genius’ about my issues and explain that it’s intermittent, and its a known issue and it just needs to be swapped out for a new one.

    “Okay, let’s run some diagnostics.”


    So she disappears, and comes back with a monitor and some cables, and then spends a good 5 minutes trying to work out how to set up the Apple TV (ironically, on a Samsung monitor lol). Then sits down next to me and asks me to replicate the problem.

    “You can’t replicate something that happens intermittently…”

    So she whips out her ipad and starts Googling the issue.

    Groan. I ended up interrupting her and basically saying “look, I’m not a moron, I’ve done my homework, clearly, I know more about this than you do, and you shouldn’t really need to google these issues if you’re the apple genius – perhaps you should go get a technician who actually knows what’s I’m talking about and I’ll talk to them…”

    So off she goes and then comes back about 10mins later “yes, we’ll, what were going to do is replace your defective Apple TV with a new one, which is still third gen, but this one comes with 90days warranty so if anything goes wrong, just bring it back and we’ll swap it for another one.

    ‘You mean, you’ll make me make another appointment which is completely useless and then make me wait again for 45minutes and just completely ignore what I’m saying and waste my time again instead of just listening to what I’m saying in the first place…?’

    ‘No, I can guarantee you won’t be waiting for so long…’

    ‘Gee, thanks’. And I took my new ATV and left.

    Set it up and it’s fine (so far). Hooray!

    My advice is if anybody else does have this issue with a 3rd gen ATV, please save yourself the pain and speak to somebody at the apple store FIRST to a) make sure they know about this issue and b) make sure they are prepared to honor the exchange, and c) try and make your appointment with a ‘genius’ who knows about it so you don’t end up wasting your time.

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